“Shea Patterson Is the Difference”: Michigan Instant Reaction

I swear, I could never hear the sentence “Shea Patterson is the difference” again and it would be too soon. For five months, that was the talk. Michigan finally has a real quarterback. Michigan’s offense is gonna be unleashed.

Well, there are still 11 games to go, but Michigan’s offense looked pretty much like they have for Jim Harbaugh’s entire tenure, and it was Notre Dame, they of the no running backs, quarterback that can’t throw, and question marks all over the field, that controlled most of Saturday’s game. Ultimately, the Irish held on for a 24-17 victory that probably shouldn’t have been that close, and Patterson, for the 5th time in his last 11 starts (thanks for that nugget, GameDay) turned the ball over twice.

And while he’ll make his bones against better offenses on the schedule, defensive coordinator Clark Lea showed that there’s no reason to fret about the departure of Mike Elko. Notre Dame’s gonna be just fine.

“Michigan cannot handle the front seven of Notre Dame”

Outside of the stars-aligning 2012 season, when was the last time you heard an analyst say the above about a top-20 ND opponent? Doug Flutie’s early second-half quote struck me as absolutely remarkable. And it was true. (It was so true, I won’t even trash Flutie for, a half hour or so earlier, chastising Michigan for not taking a knee when they were at the 1 1/2 yard line to end the first half.) Despite dealing with cramps that sent half the ND defense off the field at some time or another, Khalid Kareem, Jerry Tillery and company spent a good portion of the game in Michigan’s backfield. The Irish have long lacked the kind of defensive line that can be a true difference-maker in a game like tonight’s, and there’s no question that this evening, the defensive line had as much to do with ND’s victory as any position group.

It was extremely fitting, then, that a defense that was leaned on very heavily late in the game came up huge for the clinching play, stripping Patterson and recovering the fumble to lock up the W.

It’s weird that I’m saying all of this when Michigan outgained the Irish (by five, but still), but I’m more than willing to chalk some of that up to ND’s defense tiring due to being on the field the bulk of the second half in hot, humid conditions.

Side note: Alohi Gilman is great. It’s a good thing the NCAA couldn’t find some way to delay his eligibility any longer.

Brandon Wimbush is OK, and that’s fine

I admit, I was a bit of a pessimist coming into this season (I may or may not have predicted 8-4 in our 18S staff pool), and the biggest reason why was we didn’t know if our quarterback was actually any good. I worried something had broken in Wimbush last November, and nothing Brian Kelly said over the last eight months did a lot to assuage me.

Well, this evening, he was not perfect. He still missed a couple of reasonably easy throws, he threw a pretty bad interception, and his zone-read decisions weren’t always on the money. But considering he was facing a Michigan defensive front that was almost living in his face through most of the game (let’s hope that said more about the Wolverines than our front five), he also made some remarkable plays. Plays he didn’t make against Georgia a season ago.

And between his handful of mistakes, there was some brilliance. His 3rd-and-long throw to Alize Mack – which I already suspect will be a very overlooked play in this game – was spectacular and turned what was looking like a potential disaster into a 7-play, 96-yard touchdown drive. Which was capped by his dangerous-but-successful jump ball to Chris Finke (of all the receivers, of course it’s the skinny little white dude who makes the first 50/50 grab of the season) for ND’s second touchdown. His 3rd-and-18 QB draw for a first down in the third quarter turned another near-disaster into 3 massive points for the Irish. And he showed very, very good pocket presence against a constant rush. There were warts – there will always be warts – but this was a QB that knew what he was doing and didn’t let the moment get too big. And ND doesn’t need much more than that right now.

Running back is also going to be fine

Ok, Notre Dame’s running game wasn’t great tonight. It wasn’t even good, averaging about 3 yards per carry. But Tony Jones and Jafar Armstrong both did enough, and we’re not facing Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich anymore. Plus, this is probably the worst the offensive line will be all season. Everyone’s just going to get better, we assume. And Dexter Williams will be back at the end of September to beef things up. We’ll be ok. I promise.

(I really want Jafar to emerge as the standout back. I want to make stupid Aladdin jokes like “Genie! For my second wish, I want to score 2 touchdowns against Michigan!” every time he does something good. C’mon, universe. I don’t ask for much.)

The only thing I’m legit sad about is Michigan didn’t extend their streak of not scoring an offensive TD at ND to 8 years. That’s a bummer.

But we’re 1-0, kids. And there’s no reason whatsoever we shouldn’t be 4-0 going into the Stanford game. Sit back and let’s enjoy the ride.

By |2018-09-02T00:03:04+00:00September 2nd, 2018|Football|25 Comments

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MikeyB
MikeyB

Ian Book handed off on both of Jafar’s TDs. I fully expect Flutie to be advocating for Book to be the starting QB next week because if that.

KG
KG

Hard to argue with logic like that. Mostly because Flutie doesn’t understand logic.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Jafar Armstrong: confirmed member of the #BookClub. The hype on him being the next Theo Riddick is for real. Give him the ball in space and a block or two and he will slash through the defense. Doing that against a great UM front 7 looms large moving forward. Not a 20-carry a game workhorse up the middle but he makes plays and gives a spark.

Clearwall
Clearwall

“Why oh why isnt he just taking the safety here??” There’s only :30 remaining in the half, he should just retreat into the EZ and take a knee!

MikeyB
MikeyB

So Winovich was pretty unquestionably the best player on the field tonight, but I’d put Kareem (2 sacks, 9 tackles, plus made Patterson step into Tillery on the final strip), Coney (everywhere in the run game), Gilman (great tackling as expected, great coverage which wasn’t expected), and Tillery (completely clogged up the middle, plus penetrated on passing downs) as easily the next 4 best defensive players in this game. For all we heard about Michigan’s D, I felt that ND had 4 of the 5 best Defensive players tonight. Really impressive job.

Cubfansince1957
Cubfansince1957

I understand why they did it, but I hated them getting so conservative in the 2nd half. It worked, it got them the win, but it would have been wonderful to have put more of a beat down on them.

That said, no win vs. Michigan is a bad win. I can think of about 100 arrogant Michigan fans I’ve met in my life that I’d like to speak with right now, and I would be speaking some serious smack!

More Noise
More Noise

CubsFan, I am so with you on this one. A good one over scUM is to be cherished like a shiny Christmas present in one;s heart. Even more so to outphysical them in large amounts. Now to recall Lou Holtz saying how much improvement one should make from game to game is never more than from game 1 to game 2 (O-Line and kickoff coverage, I’m lookin at you! Hi from Paris, all!

Geaddas
Geaddas

Not to hijack this convo, but wanted to say to More Noise: I don’t think I’ve ever heard Notre Dame stadium louder than last night.
Somewhere in the second half the video board did some story about being so loud at a game back in the day that the game was delayed because of it. Then the words “do it again” popped up and the stadium went BS crazy. You’d have been proud. The noise stayed pretty much the rest of the game.

More Noise
More Noise

Hijack it anytime on this topic, Geaddas, I’ve been on this angle for decades, and sensing the crowd is almost impossible on TV. I am especially pumped up about that comment you saw on the video board. I did mention to the video board director that magic moment (Michigan not able to get off a play) in the history of loud ND crowds before things started quieting down around 1991), though I will not claim any credit, he gets plenty of input!
Anyway, great for the crowd, and I will pass that one to this year’s group of my ND interns, all three of whom promised faithfully to do their very best to make our crowd a factor!

Cubfansince1957
Cubfansince1957

I’ve always said that all that’s needed to pump up the crowd is a winning team. Last night showed that (though I love the effort by video board people to pump up the crowd).

I do think that the NBC broadcasts tend to diminish crowd reaction in all sorts of ways. When I am at the game, those long TV timeouts are killing. And, it was mentioned on another board that there is a question whether NBC somehow blocks out crowd noise so you can’t hear it on TV. I’ve had to ask people whether the crowd was loud last night because it was hard to hard to tell on the broadcast. Indeed, the moment where the video board told the crowd to “do it again” didn’t show up on the broadcast at all. When did it happen, because I couldn’t tell watching it on TV?

Geaddas
Geaddas

I want to say it was the third to last series Michigan ran. The stadium was loud-ish most the night, as it usually is for Michigan games. But when they did that video, the crowd went to a whole new level. They kept flashing “Do it again”, and “Michigan wants you to be quiet” the rest of the game.

Re-watching the game this morning, I missed it too, but I do remember Tillery lifting his hands up to keep the crowd noise going right after the video plays. I can’t seem to find it, but I believe it happened around the 8:47 mark of the 4th quarter.

If you guys have pull with those in charge, please tell them to keep innovating with respect to the stadium experience. I prefer watching games at home for various reasons, but last night was electric. I’m glad I was there to experience that.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

I never got the Shea Patterson hype either. Outside of padding stats on UT-Martin and South Alabama, his stats were dreadful against any real defense (Bama, LSU). And he isn’t a threat to take off so the Irish played him perfectly to give underneath routes but pressure and stuff everything else and stay in front of the ball.

Also – if Miles Boykin takes one step back pre-snap on the line of scrimmage (to not cover the tight end, whom Boykin made an ineligible downfield receiver by covering him up) on 3rd and 11 with 4:05 left in the 3rd quarter, Boykin gets credit for the beauty of a 28 yard touchdown catch he made. That would have made the score 28-10 and the game is basically over and it’s a laugher since Michigan has no appreciable downfield offense.

The ND defense is for real and Wimbush wasn’t perfect but he IS a battler and he made plays. Even the lucky Finke throw was a 1-on-1 and he put it up to the right side of his guy to make go up and make a play. Add that to the 3+18 run he converted and it was a performance where he did everything he needed to do. I couldn’t be much happier with what he showed. Not a 65% passer but he didn’t have a ton of time either. Showed some great presence to step up in the pocket on passing plays to avoid rushes and almost all of his balls were delivered with confidence.

Even better, the gameplan was superb. The defense will and should get lots of credit but Chip Long called a terrific game and Wimbush made all the throws including screens where he had to throw against his body and also deal with tremendous pressure of a great UM defensive line. Very impressed. 1-0, let’s go!

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Yeah come on Miles B. Senior wide receiver wipes out (his own) game icing TD by not realizing hes covered up…. Come on bro.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12
Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

I think More Noise has some pull over there and can probably fit it in next to the Mona Lisa.

More Noise
More Noise

I hate to give even negative publicity to those dudes — but I can get it in the Museum of Modern Art of Paris as a good example of decline…

CardinalBaseball
CardinalBaseball

A little suprised to log on this morning and not see 100 comments. Great win, Michigan has the best D we’ll see all year (maybe best outside of bama and Clemson). The D was really good, backs good enough, and we made some plays but that was all Wimbush tonight. They asked him to do everything against a front that was all over him, he was physically and mentally tough as hell. So happy for the kid

MDIRISH
MDIRISH

Yeah re Wimbush, I just rewatched the game and he had very little time to throw most of the time. I think our reaction to that is colored by our expectations about how good Michigan’s defense is. He made Kmet dive for the screen. He missed on the slant to Claypool. He may be somewhat responsible for the miscue that caused a pass to drop between Boykin and Claypool during the first drive. Aside from that, I thought he passed pretty well. Claypool continues to have a big impact on special teams. We tried to execute some screens to counter their aggressiveness but botched them. The center screen to Davis almost got picked. The other successful screenish pass to Davis was called back.

MDIRISH
MDIRISH

And the interception.

cwod
cwod

Great win! Would have liked better special teams, but against Michigan, I’ll take the W.

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

Great atmosphere last night. The jumbotron story about the 1988 game really fired the crowd up. It certainly seemed to have an effect on Patterson. Was sitting behind a couple of knowledgeable fans and heard them mention 18 Stripes. Turned out to be Gambit and his brother (who wouldn’t fess up to which one of you clowns he is). Funny coincidence! I told them I was Murtaugh, naturally.

gambit1077
gambit1077

Cheers. That was a fun one last night.

kiwifan
kiwifan

I thought Patterson sucked, mostly. Their backup was much scarier to me. I was glad to see Patterson come back on the field.

Would like to have seen better offense in the second half, and hope that was because of adjustments made by a strong UM defense rather than our ineptitude. Giving the ball back to Michigan having burned only 18 seconds off the clock in our final possession was scary.

I also didn’t get our punt coverage not going past the receiver to guard against the punt going into the end zone on the fake fair catches. Nobody looked to find the ball, they just surrounded the punt receiver. We got lucky when one just stopped inside the 5, but Polian needs to do much better on punt and kickoff coverage.

kiwifan
kiwifan

By the way, very good write up, Andy.

Geaddas
Geaddas

I just had this thought:

If Shea Patterson is the difference, could we argue that ol’ Miss scored 17 pts on us last night but Michigan still hasn’t scored?